Jonathan Rea completed his comeback from injury with a superb victory in race one at Imola after resisting a determined challenge from Noriyuki Haga. The Castrol Honda rider missed three events after fracturing his arm and collarbone at Misano but there were no questions over his fitness this morning.
Rea was first into Tamburello after a lightning start but the Northern Irishman outbraked himself when he got there. As he swept back onto the racing line, Carlos Checa was forced slightly wide allowing Tom Sykes to sneak through into the lead.
Checa slotted in behind in second while Rea held third ahead of Eugene Laverty and Noriyuki Haga, with the top five stretching a lead over the rest of the field. Rea continued to look racy and dived past Checa into Rivazza but while he moved forwards, the championship leader fell back with Laverty and Haga demoting him to fifth.
Five laps in, Rea hit the front as he slipped past the Kawasaki of Sykes into Variante Bassa and Haga had clearly been watching him, as he produced a carbon copy of his move to take second on lap nine. Rea had opened up a 1.4s lead by this point though and the Japanese rider was forced to ride on the ragged edge just to catch the Castrol Honda.
Despite shadowing him for the second half of the race, Haga couldn't find a way past as Rea refused to give way. The Briton didn't put a wheel wrong under intense pressure and took the chequered flag just 0.111s ahead of Haga.
The battle for third became a straight fight between Sykes and Checa and the Yorkshireman cam agonizingly close, losing the position to the Spaniard on the final run through Acqua Minerale. Laverty couldn't keep in touch with the leading group but still held on to fifth, keeping the Effenbert-Liberty Ducati of Sylvain Guintoli behind him. Leon Haslam was putting Laverty under pressure early in the race but the BMW man crashed out at Tosa.
Jakub Smrz won a six-man battle for seventh which also included Marco Melandri. The Italian faces an uphill task to keep the title race alive in race two after finishing eighth in a mistake-filled opener.
Leon Camier only made one error but it was a pretty serious one, outbraking himself into Variante Bassa on lap one and running through the pitlane. The Briton made it back out on track but could only recover to 15th.
Race One Result (21 Laps):
|1||Jonathan Rea||GBR||Honda||Castrol Honda||38:03.396|
|2||Noriyuki Haga||JAP||Aprilia||PATA Racing Team Aprilia||+0.111|
|3||Carlos Checa||SPA||Ducati||Althea Racing||+9.449|
|4||Tom Sykes||GBR||Kawasaki||Kawasaki Racing Team||+9.792|
|5||Eugene Laverty||IRL||Yamaha||Yamaha World Superbike Team||+14.699|
|6||Sylvain Guintoli||FRA||Ducati||Team Effenbert-Liberty Racing||+16.820|
|7||Jakub Smrz||CZE||Ducati||Team Effenbert-Liberty Racing||+24.227|
|8||Marco Melandri||ITA||Yamaha||Yamaha World Superbike Team||+24.935|
|9||Ayrton Badovini||ITA||BMW||BMW Motorrad Italia SBK Team||+25.224|
|10||Joan Lascorz||SPA||Kawasaki||Kawasaki Racing Team||+25.487|
|11||Mark Aitchison||AUS||Kawasaki||Team Pedercini||+26.148|
|12||Troy Corser||AUS||BMW||BMW Motorrad Motorsport||+26.444|
|13||Federico Sandi (WC)||SPA||Ducati||Althea Racing||+29.761|
|14||Alessandro Polita (WC)||ITA||Ducati||Barni Racing Team S.N.C||+30.083|
|15||Leon Camier||GBR||Aprilia||Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team||+34.862|
|16||Matteo Baiocco (WC)||ITA||Ducati||Barni Racing Team||+40.331|
|17||Ruben Xaus||SPA||Honda||Castrol Honda||+44.547|
|18||Roberto Rolfo||ITA||Kawasaki||Team Pedercini||+50.241|
|Leon Haslam||GBR||BMW||BMW Motorrad Motorsport||+13 Laps|
|Javier Fores||SPA||BMW||BMW Motorrad Italia SBK Team||+15 Laps|
|Michel Fabrizio||ITA||Suzuki||Team Suzuki Alstare||+20 Laps|
|Maxime Berger||FRA||Ducati||Supersonic Racing Team||+20 Laps|